We are closing in on six decades of amazing music from Bruce Springsteen. In all those years of performing, The Boss has covered over 300 songs. Some he’s covered hundreds of times. Others he’s covered just once.
A new “Songs Under Cover” playlist he just released as part of his Live Series collects 15 soundboard covers spanning several decades and genres of music. Some of the covers are more successful than others, and we’re going to rank them for you right here. (Play along with the official playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music).
#15: “I Don’t Want To Go Home” – 2012/07/31, Helsinki, FL (Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes cover)
By far the least polished and most raw cover of the 15. This is more of an “end of the night, leave the audience with that wistful happy feeling” kind of song than the myriad of anthems we’ll hear on the rest of this album. Also, Springsteen’s guitarist Steve Van Zandt wrote the song, so it wasn’t really a cover for everyone on the E Street stage.
#14: Brown Eyed Girl – 2017/01/30, Adelaide, AU (Van Morrison cover)
It seems a bit strange to include this particular rendition on an album of live covers. The extra singers were random audience members dressed like characters in The Honeymooners that Bruce called up to the stage after seeing their sign. While this undoubtedly made for a fun moment during the concert, it’s lost on an album of mostly top notch covers.
#13: Purple Rain – 2016/04/23, Brooklyn, NY (Prince cover)
This cover was just after the passing of Prince and it was performed beautifully, reverently, and with a lot of emotion. It is only far down the list due to the disconnect of the band to this particular song. It’s more of an atmospheric pop song, which proves to be slightly outside of the E Street Band’s strengths. There’s nothing wrong with this cover, but there’s also nothing noteworthy either.
#12: I Fought The Law – 2017/02/18 Hunter Valley, AU (Bobby Fuller Four cover)
This is a solid cover of the Bobby Fuller Four classic, but it’s a bit bland.
#11: Summertime Blues – 1978/08/09, Cleveland, OH (Eddie Cochran cover)
If you’re looking for the hand-clapping, toe-tapping, rockabilly vibes of Eddie Cochran’s original, you certainly won’t find it in this Springsteen cover. The Boss growls his way through the lyrics and the band has a blast with piano glissandos and big rock sound.
#10: Twist and Shout – 1975/12/31, Upper Darby, PA (The Isley Brothers cover)
This is going to be an ongoing theme: almost every cover receives the full Boss rock treatment, regardless of the decade in which it originated. “Twist and Shout” is not the exception. With the opening chords, you know this is Springsteen and the E Street Band, a far cry from the Isley Brothers’ Motown grooves. (Somewhat closer to the Beatles, but still unmistakeable E Street).
#9: (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher – 2009/11/22, Buffalo, NY (Jackie Wilson cover)
The Boss and his band play this song like a cut and dry rock anthem. It’s full band, all out, raucous fun and the result is a great cover by a stage full of the best musicians. It’s only a bit far down the ranking due to its relative simplicity.
#8: Detroit Medley – 1979/09/21, New York City, NY (Mitch Ryder cover)
The Boss and his band are right in the pocket with a blues progression. They could probably do this entire medley in their sleep. We are treated to big baritone saxophone growls, zippy piano solos, and of course Springsteen’s growling vocals.
#7: Lucille – 2016/07/03, Milan, IT (Little Richard cover)
Blues-influenced rock and roll is the genre Springsteen leans towards more than any other in his choice of covers, undoubtedly a legacy of their years as a bar band. The band is in top form trading solos and keeping that blues feel humming. The Boss growls his way through the song, paying perfect tribute to all of the blues masters before him.
#6: When You Walk In The Room – 1975/10/18, The Roxy, LA (Jackie DeShannon cover)
Springstein’s take is full on Americana rock and he seems fully invested in the song. The Boss and his band are particularly suited to covering 60’s songs because it isn’t a far cry from swinging sixties to the rockabilly 70’s.
#5: Can’t Help Falling In Love – 1981/06/05, London, UK (Elvis Presley cover)
Even showing his tender side, Springsteen still can’t help growling just a little bit. It wouldn’t be Springsteen if he didn’t. This is a beautiful rendition with just guitar and vocals, and one of the few slow songs on this album.
#4: Travelin’ Band – 1985/09/27, Los Angeles, CA (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
The Boss makes full use of his incredible musicians in this rendition of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic. Exuberant piano solos, beefy bari sax, and just overall raucous fun lift up this cover. Credence and Springsteen operate on similar wavelengths so this cover isn’t too far from the original.
#3: Highway To Hell – 2014/02/26, Brisbane, AU (AC/DC cover)
You know you’re in for a treat when The Boss and Eddie Vedder join forces on the stage. Two consummate musicians covering an incredibly well known classic rock anthem with big voices, a big band, and big personalities. What an incredible surprise that must have been for the audience, and one that translates on record.
#2: Boom Boom – 1988/05/23, New York, NY (John Lee Hooker cover)
If rock is Springsteen’s first language, the blues is his second, and he is sure fluent. Not only does his band fully embrace the blues and the solos it encourages, they shine within the genre’s formal constraints. This is a fun, wonderfully polished cover. The organ solo about mid way through is the icing on the cake followed by an equally fantastic guitar solo and Springsteen’s crazed vocals.
#1: Stayin’ Alive – 2014/02/26, Brisbane, AU (Bee Gees cover)
This is an absolutely incredible cover from start to finish. It begins low, slow, and mysterious with a gorgeous trumpet solo. Vocal harmonies, a string section, and various instrumental solos are then scattered throughout the song. Coupled with Springsteen’s intense vocals, the effect is hypnotic. Of all the covers on this album, this one comes across as the most thought-out and complex in terms of live presentation.
Now that you’ve heard covers BY the Boss, wanna hear some covers OF the Boss? Check our our countdown of the 50 Best Bruce Springsteen Covers Ever.